4.29.2012

Our Adventure in the Desert

“The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong - that’s when adventure starts” 
-Yvon Chouinard

Last week my sister-in-law Sally invited me and the boys on a little camping trip to Goblin Valley with her two boys.  She needed to go up on Thursday to save some campsites for my brother and his scouts for the weekend (he's the scout master in their church).  My other sister-in-law Kim was going with her two kids, and my Mom was going too.  

I wondered if I should go.  It was about a seven hour drive to get there.  We've been out of town and had company (our favorite thing!) for the last few weeks, and it also meant that I would miss a church temple trip that I was looking forward to.  

Every time I would decide not to go though, I would think of going there as a child and how much I loved playing in that Valley of Goblins.  It had been years since I've been but I could still picture the landscape so vividly in my mind and the way the dirt felt against my hands and feet.  I knew my boys would be in heaven there with cousins to play with and an endless supply of dirt to climb up, play in, and hide behind.

Plus there was something enticing about the idea of camping without men.  Not that I don't love the men in my life, but I haven't ever been camping as an adult without one.  I liked the idea of seeing how capable I was as an independent camper.  I figured if I was successful, that maybe I would do a lot more spontaneous camping trips with just me and the boys or even some girlfriends and our kids.

It turns out that I'm not all that capable (but I'm learning!). 

As we drove out of Vegas I was feeling pretty proud of myself for getting everything packed and ready to go without Rick's help (though my Mom who had been visiting the last week and was driving with me was a huge help in getting everything ready and helping with the boys while I packed).  The two of us were visiting away on our drive and listening to good music while we tried to get the boys to take a little nap.

When we hit I70 we were deep in conversation, and were completely oblivious to the road signs around us (my Mom who is legally blind has an excuse).  We passed Richfield and then Salina.  We had about a quarter tank of gas and wondered if we should stop and gas up yet.  We both decided that the boys were doing so well that we hated to stop.  "Lets just wait until the next stop," I remember saying.  I didn't notice the sign that said there were no services for the next 107 miles.  Even though both of us had been to Goblin Valley before, we had gone from a different direction, and neither of us realized the complete nothingness of this stretch of road.  

No houses.  No billboards.  No gas stations.  No cell service.  Nothing.  I'm serious.  

After about thirty miles of driving I started to wonder where in the world the next town was.  We were on a major freeway, after all, and I was getting a little creeped out at the vastness of the landscape.  Don't get me wrong-- if I would have had a full tank of gas I would have really enjoyed the beautiful mountains, cliffs, and valleys, but when my tank was nearing empty and my cell phone said "no service" and I couldn't even find a road sign to tell me when the next stop was...well I didn't enjoy it at all.

I asked the GPS where the next fuel station was and it told me it was in 20 miles.  Okay.  20 miles.  I felt relieved.  Even though we were almost empty, we could make it.  The closer we got to that destination though, the more of a sinking feeling I started to get.  

There was still nothing.  I could see for miles and miles around me, and I couldn't see anything.  Not a house, not a single sign of civilization.  What if the GPS was wrong?  Where in the world was this gas station supposed to be?  Two miles away...one point five miles away...one/half mile away.  Still nothing.

We came up to the very spot that "Randy's gas station" was supposed to be, and I started to go to full blown panic.  I exited the freeway even though I knew it would take me to the big old empty spot of land that I was staring at and was supposed to be a gas station.  My hands started shaking.  We are going to run out of gas.  We have no cell service and we are sixty miles away from any town.  I knew those were the facts, and my mind was scrambling wondering what I should do.

I immediately started to move to plan B.  Okay, we're going to run out of gas, but we have a car full of camping gear, food and water, so we're not going to die.  We are also on a major road and there are plenty of cars passing by.  My Mom was also there and that was a huge blessing.

My Mom said a prayer.  She prayed that we wouldn't run out of gas and that we would get to where we needed to go safely.  As I looked at the fuel gauge, well below empty now, I knew that we would most definitely run out of gas, but I did hope and added a prayer in my heart that we could get through this safely.

When we hit mile marker 120 the car sputtered and gave its last bit of energy.  We were forty miles away from Green River, the nearest town, and still without cell service.  We pulled to the side of the road and both my Mom and I got out and started waving loudly at the cars and trucks going by.  Within a minute a large semi-truck stopped for us.  We told him our predicament, and though he was nice and understanding, he had no fuel, and couldn't give us a ride without putting his position in jeopardy.  

While we were standing talking to him though, a white Nissan pulled to the side of the road and started backing up to us.  My Mom ran ahead to talk to him and by the time the trucker was getting ready to leave, the nicest stranger I have ever met, backed up to our car and introduced himself as Paul.  He was a cattle herder from Moab, and looked a little gruff around the edges, but he had incredibly kind eyes and I trusted him right away.  He offered to take us into Green River to fill up a gas can, and then told us that there was no way he would leave us in Green River, but that he would also drive us back to our car to make sure that we could get to where we needed to go safely.  

Five minutes hadn't even passed by since our car died, and here we had a man who we trusted and who was willing to drive 80 miles out of his way for people he had never even met.  My Mom and I got teary eyed with gratitude.  

We loaded the boys in the back of his car, and we all drove toward town.  He told us about his life in Moab and about his kids and grandkids and his wife who has MS.  He told us about just getting released as bishop after 6 1/2 years of service.  Mostly my Mom talked while I kept the boys busy and prayed a lot of silent thank yous from my backseat.

When we got into town Paul called his brother who lived there who met him with a gas can so we didn't have to buy one.  While my Mom and the kids and I were in the station using the bathroom and getting some snacks, Paul filled up the gas can without telling us, and refused to let us pay him for it (or do anything else nice for him to say thank you).  We were amazed at his kindness.

We dropped my Mom and the kids off at a local park so that the kids didn't have to drive an extra 80 miles, and could play and run and stretch their legs.  I asked Paul all about cattle herding.  He told me all about how he moves the cattle depending on the time of year and the public land that they graze off of.  He told me about the permits that he has to get renewed every ten years, and how difficult it is with environmentalists and PETA groups, and people who make it difficult for people like him, and who seem to have no understanding of how their meat gets to their supermarket.  He told me about the process he goes through and who he sells his calves to.  He told me about riding his horses, and how he grew up in Moab and his ancestors who settled there, and how his boys would love to do the same thing, but there just isn't enough money in it for all of them.  I was fascinated by it all.  

After we put some gas in my tank and my poor car started, he insisted on following me back to make sure I could get back to my Mom and boys safely.  I gave him a hug and stopped myself from asking to take his picture.  I just always wanted to remember him and his white moustache and beard and sunburned hands and kind eyes.  I wish I would have dared to ask him.

When I got to my Mom and boys he drove by and gave a friendly honk, and that was the last I saw of him.

We got to Goblin Valley a few hours later and had a fun trip all around.  The Goblins were amazing, the kids played themselves ragged and I loved being in the middle of nowhere, away from distractions and close to the stars.  I set and took down the tent by myself, and I loved being out in the dirt.  But I think when I think of this trip I will always remember and cherish the memory of Paul and how he helped us so much without wanting a single thing in return.  I will remember what went wrong on this trip, and how much I learned from it (like never ever say you'll fill up at the next town when you have no idea when the next town is coming up, among other things).  

There are wonderful people in this world.  And I'm so grateful I had the privilege to meet and spend time with one of the best of them this weekend.

A few pictures from our trip: